Faith groups ask Obama to ban use of torture

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of people rallied outside the White House Nov. 12 as religious leaders from a number of faiths met with members of Congress while also urging President-elect Barack Obama to sign an executive order banning torture.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)'s "Day of Witness" included a procession of people carrying anti-torture banners, many of which had been hanging in their houses of worship, that ended at the White House.

"At this moment of hope, we call audaciously for moral leadership that will be welcomed throughout the world as the U.S. government and our people resume our aspiration to be guided through the night with a light from above," said Rabbi Gerry Serotta, chair of the group Rabbis for Human Rights.

Religious leaders are also asking members of Congress to form a committee to investigate the use of torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Faith leaders urge Red Cross access to detainees

WASHINGTON -- Top leaders from a number of faiths have asked Congress to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all U.S.-held detainees, including those held at secret overseas prisons.

A letter signed by 25 senior faith leaders calls on Congress to support legislation that gives the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the right to use information from the Central Intelligence Agency to access the U.S.-held detainees.

The letter was signed by Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The ICRC has a mandate to visit detention facilities around the world to ensure that prisoners of war and other detainees are treated humanely as required by international law," they said.

While the United States has supported ICRC access and opposed holding detainees incommunicado, the letter claims that the U.S. has engaged in the practice of secret detentions over the past seven years.

"It is of the utmost importance that our country immediately implements all measures needed to guarantee the humane treatment of all detainees," they said.

Chaplains rush in to aid workers caught in market meltdown

As the market mayhem continues to rock Wall Street, dazed employees in the financial sector who have lost their faith in the economy are turning to religious leaders for guidance.

"People who still have their jobs are asking, 'Am I next?' They are much less certain of their place in their company and in the world," said Mary Ragan, a psychologist at the Psychotherapy and Spirituality Institute in New York.

Houses of worship in New York City are providing programs to help employees manage the stress of the market meltdown, including immediate counseling, job training and long-term direction for those who still have jobs but aren't sure for how long.

Ragan will be leading sessions at a high-profile Episcopal parish, Trinity Wall Street, on "Coping With Stress in Uncertain Times," which was started just as the market started to convulse. David Jette of Trinity Wall Street said registrations have already doubled.

The church said it plans to reach out over the next several months with not only personal counseling but also job coaching to help people prepare for what Ragan called "the ripple effect."

Faith leaders urge long-term solutions for Gulf Coast

More than 100 religious leaders have urged the federal government and both major political parties to develop long-term solutions to address poverty and environmental concerns along the Gulf Coast.

In an attempt to solve what they called a "moral crisis," the religious leaders sent the statement to national leaders of both parties to urge them to restore the Gulf Coast communities by creating resident-led partnerships that will enable residents to help rebuild their communities.

The statement also called for government officials to increase federal and state funding for affordable housing and coastal wetland restoration, and to implement a flood control system to protect the communities from future severe weather.

"We have learned that acts of faith and mercy alone, no matter how profound, cannot provide everything needed for a sustainable recovery," the statement said.

Hurricanes Ike and Gustav reminded the nation that there is still work to be done in the Gulf Coast, and the slow recovery from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita has left many survivors unable to return to their communities, the leaders said.